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The Kashmir Valley

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There could hardly be a greater contrast than that between the hot and dusty plains around Jammu and the cool green belt of the Kashmir Valley. Apart from the geographical divide, separated as they are by a rise in altitude of over 1000m, there are huge cultural and religious differences. While the whole area around Jammu is predominantly Hindu, the Kashmir Valley and its capital, Srinagar, are distinctly Muslim, hence the notorious sectarian problems. The initial impression of the Vale of Kashmir, whether you approach it via the Jawahar Tunnel which cuts through the mountains from Jammu in the south or via the Zoji La pass from Kargil to the west, remains one of a lush rural paradise guarded by the grandeur of the surrounding peaks, the mighty Pir Pinjal range snow-capped except in the very height of summer. Vivid green fields of corn and wheat form a patchwork quilt with fruit orchards and groves of nut trees, principally walnut and almond. These are most often lined with towering poplars and willows, hence the preponderance, on the approach to the capital, of shops selling high quality cricket bats. Heavy industry has yet to appear in the valley.

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